The Philadelphia Museum of Art’s entrance steps were made famous by a memorable 1976 film. Up to the present, tourists continue to flock this landmark to reenact the scene themselves. Unfortunately for fans of Rocky who might face challenges in mobility, this is an experience that can be enjoyed more fully only by other able-bodied fans.
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was passed only thirty years ago. The 2010 ADA Standards for Accessible Design, on the other hand, was published by the U.S. Department of Justice only a decade previously. These are regulations that did not exist when the museum in Philadelphia was built in 1876.
Today, it is prohibited by the law to have physical barriers that may deny persons with disability from admission to all kinds of services especially in the public domain. Litigation for violations of the ADA is both unnecessary and regrettably expensive. It is unnecessary because, to begin with, new buildings that are being constructed are expected and required to adhere to ADA Standards. And yet, every year, claims for Title III of the ADA continue to go on the rise. Due to this, it has become increasingly necessary for businesses to secure CASp inspections. These are official checks conducted by Certified Access Specialists (CASp) who are trained by the state on accessibility regulations. On the flipside, nowadays, engineers and architects are getting more innovative in building design as equal access is cemented as the norm.
Accessibility does not mean erecting lackluster facilities. It is a step in the right direction and poses more of a challenge than a limitation to creative freedom. Here are just a few ways for designers to explore their artistry and be inclusive at the same time.
Use of color
Effective communication is a must for compliance to the ADA. A great way to practice effective communication is with the use of specific color schemes in signage, notices, and interior design. This method of communication throughout a facility can efficiently signal visitors to available features and services. These days, a lot of designers tend to forget that there are people who have color vision deficiency as well as that there are actually several types of color blindness. But even a small percentage of the population still translates to millions of people. While the ADA only covers color blindness as a disability under certain circumstances, it is important to remember that it still boils down to providing equal opportunities to everyone. Keeping this in mind can not only properly guide designers when they are planning establishments but can also bring out their creativity in relaying messages.
Variations in design
Aside from varieties in color, designers can also indicate how they value accessibility by their application of wide-ranging strategies in and out of a structure. To add to that, aside from making more options available, diversity in building plans is also just more interesting. This can mean getting inspiration from numerous architectural designs all over the world. Rooms, hallways, and entrances don’t need to look the same all the time. The mere number of disabilities is enough to keep architects and engineers on the tips of their toes so that they can come up with new ideas that haven’t been explored. In our time, it is actually getting more unusual to encounter the same cold edifices that defined previous generations. Today, variety and uniqueness are the signatures of artists and these models work in harmony with accessible design.
There are at least 12 million adults in the United States who are blind. Today, fluency in Braille can be a good skill to have as a designer because it opens you to the possible ways you can incorporate this system in architectural plans. But the application and use of Braille alone is not enough for effective communication with people who have vision impairment. Braille is tactile by definition and this awareness that accessible messaging needs to be perceptible to touch can also be integrated in building inspiration. In general, when you think of architecture or any edifice at all, it is mostly a visual experience. But to be more accessible, building design must not only look good, they must also feel good. And this means being more sensitive and accommodating to the tactile needs of at least one million completely blind Americans.
Slopes and circles
The iconic Rocky steps in Philadelphia mentioned above were not built with wheelchairs in mind. But imagine if they did consider people with mobility issues as they were planning it. Maybe it would’ve meant a longer scene for Rocky or maybe it would’ve provided an altogether different visual experience, but just the same, today, it would be enjoyable for more visitors, and not just because it is tiring to go up too many steps. One of the ways that accessibility announced its implementation across the nation was the more standard practice of employing wheelchair ramps and slopes. It is a basic now that is almost sacrilegious to take for granted. But it is also a scheme just inherently more welcoming that architects would do well to take as inspiration when they draw up plans. Sharp edges are not just too common; they can also be quite unsafe. While not a novel idea, postmodern design has come to combine more slopes and circles in art and architecture. Applying those to structures to make them more accessible can also lead designers to a more creative direction.